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SANTA CLARA — All roads are open, but with limited access, as cleanup continues in Santa Clara. A fast-moving flood caused a breach in a retention basin, flooding homes and businesses around noon Tuesday.
Volunteers and city crews started the cleanup early Wednesday morning. At least 600 volunteers spent the day trying to make life better for their neighbors.
I want to cry. I mean, I couldn't imagine coming out in the morning and seeing all of it and going, I have to clean this up?
–Melissa Ericksen, volunteer
"I want to cry. I mean, I couldn't imagine coming out in the morning and seeing all of it and going, I have to clean this up?" volunteer Melissa Ericksen said.
The water and mud were merciless, even pushing a hot tub — which was full of water at the time — off of its foundation.
Juliann Wiest couldn't believe how bad the damage was. "I can't even tell you," she said, "There's 3 feet of mud in my yard. The house is OK — it was a miracle, my house only got 2 to 3 inches of mud in it."
Just down the street, the damage was truly unbelievable. High water mark was about 4 feet high. One homeowner, who didn't want to go on camera, told KSL News her kitchen table floated clear out to the front door.
So who needs flood insurance? That answer is pretty simple.
"I recommend that everybody, if they have property, to look at flood insurance," John Crofts, with the Utah Division of Emergency Management, told KSL News.
"(A) homeowner's insurance policy does not cover flood loss," he added. "You have to purchase a flood policy for a flood loss."
As Utah has seen in floods this summer, even the least-expected areas can unexpectedly get hit. In order to protect yourself and your property, Crofts suggests the following:
- Check to see if your community is part of the National Flood Program.
- If your property is on the list, find a flood agent and make an appointment
- If your property is not on the list, find a private insurance company. You can have a plan set within a day
- Know what your plan covers so you're not surprised when some valuables are not replaced. For example, Croft pointed out that flood insurance does not cover dry wall, carpet or paint; basements aren't usually fully covered either.
- It takes 30 days for your plan to go into effect, with one exception: if you've recently been a victim of one of Utah's wildfires.
At a Wednesday morning news conference, Santa Clara Mayor Rick Rosenberg said 31 homes were affected. Some have structural damage and several may need to be condemned, he said. Others have mud, debris and water damage. All of the affected homes' basements were damaged to some extent.
The mayor pointed out that most of the homeowners did not have flood insurance, and it would not have covered basements anyway.
Rosenberg also praised the relief effort, including the hundreds of volunteers who showed up to help. Chris Michel was one of them, and he came from 6 miles away to lend a hand.
"I've been through some of this stuff before, myself," he said, "and to know what it's like is pretty rough."
If they're not doing the bulk of the heavy lifting, volunteers donning hole-riddled jeans caked with mud are certainly the backbone here.
Rosenberg said electricity had been restored to almost all of the affected homes. Power was expected to be completely restored early Wednesday afternoon. Infrastructure like sewer and water lines were not damaged.
Because there only 31 homes affected, city leaders said they're fighting an uphill battle trying to get homeowners federal relief. The standard threshold to receive aid is 100 homes or more.
The retention pond that overflowed Tuesday was built in 1919 and was scheduled for an upgrade. County officials earlier said they've never had a problem with it previously. The mayor said it likely will be rebuilt.
Contributing: Nadine Wimmer, Mike Headrick, Devon Dolan, Jennifer Stagg and Alex Cabrero